Michele Shirlow MBE – Farm Week Column 28th February 2019

Being informed by one of our companies winning significant business from participation in a promotional event that we’ve organised is always very heartening.


It was great to hear recently from Luca Montorio of Peppup Sauces in Portaferry that a contact made on the stand that we organised with Invest NI at the big Scotland Speciality Food Show in Glasgow in January has yielded business with TKMaxx, the US-owned value retailer with a successful network of stores throughout the UK.


Luca, who has won a host of awards for his authentic Italian ketchup and pasta sauces, is now supplying the products to the retailer through its depot in Britain.


Luca was understandably delighted when he told us of what is his biggest-ever retail order, and one in a market he has been working to crack for many years. He’s worked tirelessly to develop sales of his sauces and has enjoyed considerable success in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland since launching the innovative business back in 2013.


Breakthroughs such as Luca has now achieved don’t come easy; they demand patience, perseverance and sheer grit. He’s worked hard to grow the small business for it and richly deserves the success he’s now enjoying.


He’s also approached the business in a thoroughly professional way, taking the many opportunities that we’ve provided especially at the annual RUAS show at Balmoral Park and guidance from the likes of the Loughry College in Cookstown in essential areas such as shelf-life, which can often determine whether an artisan product is successful particularly in markets outside Northern Ireland. His products have a shelf-life of two years.


Other companies taking part on our recent stands at Speciality Food in Glasgow and Gifted in Dublin, I am also delighted to report, are following up solid business leads that should produce good sales. Irish Black Butter, for example, is now following up interesting approaches from retailers in the US and Germany which are keen on his unique savoury/sweet spread, firm business leads that could result in his first worthwhile export sales.


And Echlinville Distillery in Kircubbin, another company which has taken part in our promotional activities including our presentation at Borough Market in London last year, has achieved outstanding recognition for the quality of its Dunville whiskies in the prestigious World Whiskey Awards 2019. I congratulate the Echlinville team on this tremendous achievement.


Another participant at last year’s Borough Market, Ballylisk Triple Cream Cheese from Tandragee also secured a significant order from one of the biggest and most respected cheese retailers at the market.


We are now finalising arrangements for the St Patrick’s Week showcase at this market, an initiative once again supported by Invest NI. Our presentation this year, I believe, will be even more impressive than in 2018.


I am confident that the showcase will once again yield rewarding business for the participating companies. And we’ll have our celebrity chef Paula McIntyre on hand to demonstrate the fabulous dishes that can be created using premium and outstandingly tasty local ingredients. Plus in the second week we have the Krazi Baker and his griddle, making pancakes, sodas and potato farls. It’s going to be superb showcase of the food and drink which helped to make Northern Ireland the World’s Best Food Destination.